Please Don’t Be A “PreMed Clone!”

Since I started working with premeds, I have read over 4,000 personal statements. That’s a LOT of essays. And while everyone has their own story, there is one essay format that just KILLS an application. Literally, this format  bores admissions committees to death.

The absolutely worst essays I have seen include, among other things, the most boring list of events. It looks something like this:

I was born (good for you)
I went to grade school and high school, did pretty good (yawn)
I went to college at [college name]. Did some stuff. (snore)
I wanna help people. (yippee for you)
Accept me at your med school, I want to be a doctor. (huh?!)


Do you know what this format does? It makes you a “Pre-med clone.”

And what’s worse, if you’re a clone, you don’t actually get rejected right away…no, that would be a mercy killing.

Instead, med schools will string you along…telling you that you are “on hold” or “pending” or “pending for interview” or “waitlisted”—all of which means the same thing! And then a year goes by and you finally face reality. You say to yourself, “Shoot! I guess I’m just not getting into med school this year.”

So please, please don’t waste your time writing your story based on a calendared sequence. You are writing, not calendaring, so you can use my literary license and rearrange the sequence of events in order to improve the quality of your essay.

Is this ok to do? YES!

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Tom Rountree - March 9, 2009 Reply

I currently like to use the similar experiences technique. Where I take a strength (or skill) that I have and show how I would solve practical events or problems that I might encounter in Med-School. Then I take a major event (or job) in my life and use that to show emotional characteristics that would make me a good fit as a med-student.

I listened to your talk online about defining how I would solve a med-schools current problem (like students who drop out) and adapted it into my own essay. Great Advice!

Thanks for all your Help!

Don Osborne - March 9, 2009 Reply

Awesome glad you liked the online materials … keep in touch and let me know how things go for you as you progress through the application cycle.

Satoki Umezawa - March 9, 2009 Reply

What do you mean by “I was born”?
Are you saying that I-was-born-to-be-an-MD-type essay is boring?

Diana - March 9, 2009 Reply

Can you give us an example of what is good and what is bad, instead of hypothetical ways of writing?

Gustavo - March 9, 2009 Reply

May you gives example or tips of what we should include in our personal statement???

Don Osborne - March 9, 2009 Reply

Hi … I mean literally: “I was born on my birthday. My mom was there, too.”

Oh and by the way … the “I was born to be an MD” essay is also boring!

Thank you for your post.

All the best!

Nelli - March 9, 2009 Reply

Is that a good idea to include that a direct member of your family was a doctor and how I was growing up in that atmosphere and so on?

Bradley McFadden - March 10, 2009 Reply

The personal statement section on AMCAS is very broad, asking for your “personal comments.” This ambiguity leaves the potential to an obscure and boring essay, and not exactly addressing what the Med school admissions council would like to hear. I like how you explicitly mention what NOT to include…because without ever having looked at any sample essays, I would have fallen into the same trap.

Instead, the personal statement should of course include somewhere that you would be a good doctor, but the important part would be describing why that is true through very specific examples and experiences you have encountered that illustrate qualities such as personal growth, helping out someone or some event for its benefit and not your own…etc.

Good luck,


Don Osborne - March 12, 2009 Reply

Yes this could work … depends on how you arrange it.
– DonO

Don Osborne - March 12, 2009 Reply

Awesome! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Where did you learn that, B? 😉

Pat - March 17, 2009 Reply

I find it hard to make a personal statement unique, because everyone has the same activities and do the same stuff to prepare for medical school. What are the best things to talk about? I feel like even mission trips aren’t unique anymore, because so many people go out of the country to do medical-related work. How can we write about that in a unique way? I just don’t know how to make my personal statement stand out, and I really look forward to your advice!

harika - November 28, 2010 Reply

this is hard. i had a varied lifestyle growing up, born in america but ive done most of my schooling in india. which is sort of a problem. from around 6th grade i never thought about being passionate for med school.(never thought i would join either) it was more like being passionate about helping people. so, most of the volunteer work ive done, im not really sure if it is something that i could put down on record.( most of it was helping out in orphanages, blue cross.. opening medical camps things like that) please advise on how i should go about writing the resume(i didnt even no students had a resume!) and personal statement. i no i must seem clueless…but i have to start somewhere ;P

maz - October 8, 2011 Reply

hope this helps! 🙂

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